Passy REYES

 

Passy REYES
DOB: 1983   - 18 years when missing

 

HAIR: Brown BUILD: Thin     156cm tall EYES: Brown
CIRCUMSTANCES:
Passy was last seen at Mona Vale on 18 July 2001. She had been living and attending school in the district. Passy is believed to have left her home at approximately 4.50am that morning and has not been seen since. There are grave concerns for her safety and welfare.
Reported missing to: Dee Why Police Station.
 

ARCHIVES - August 14, 2003

The Be All and End All - SBS Insight program

For many young people the most stressful experience of their childhood is the final year of school. The pressure to secure a place at university in Australia or to just do well seems to be more intense every year. So its often a relief to look back on year 12, even if it is with a mixture of bewilderment and anger at some of the pressure applied by parents, schools or the students on themselves. But in the most extreme cases the results of that final years stress can be tragic. Christine Heard reports.


REPORTER: Christine Heard

Two years ago Margaret Reyes lost her daughter. Her son Christopher lost his only sibling. Today they lay flowers to mark the spot.

MARGARET REYES: This is the place where Passy left her clothes on the night that she disappeared.

REPORTER: Does it help to come here?

CHRIS REYES: Yeah, it does. When we come here it kind of like brings us closer. And then obviously each time we come it just brings back the connection.

Margaret's daughter Passy was 18 when she disappeared from her Mona Vale home on Sydney's Northern Beaches. Her family is convinced she isn't dead. They believe she left on purpose, halfway through her final year of school, known in New South Wales as the HSC. REPORTER: Why do you believe Passy left?

MARGARET REYES: Because of the pressure of the HSC, the stress of the teachers, and the stress of the community in general was too much for her.

Passy's favourite final year subject was art. The syllabus asked art students to present "a body of work" at the end of the year but it didn't specify how much art that meant. Passy tried to do as many works as she could. By mid-year she had either completed or was working on 23 pieces.

CHRIS REYES: She wouldn't socialise. She didn't have a social life, you know, because she was all drawn into her HSC and doing the work.

MARGARET REYES: I could not make her stop for all that I try. It was just, "Mum I have to do it, I have to finish my artwork. "I have to present it to the school, I have to please the teacher, I have to get a good mark. I have to, I have to." It was not like, "Well, if I slack a little bit, I will be fine, I will get by, it's OK". It was nothing like that at all.

Passy's written work offers some insight into what Year 12 was like.

(MARGARET READS): "Art. I have to learn to know when to stop. What my feelings are about my artwork." "Because sometimes I work and work on it and lose the plot. I feel this tends to happen when I have no actual direction. I seem to be a bit of a perfectionist but when it comes to my art I can not have it looking a mess. "I get blocks and the ideas don't come so easily. This usually happens when I have to concentrate on my other subjects. I want to do well in all my subjects. But it's very hard putting in 100% into each subject." No solution for the stress. I couldn't find any solution.

Margaret believes her daughter found a solution. Early one July morning, Passy put on her Year 12 formal dress. She left her home - Margaret remembers hearing the front door close.

MARGARET REYES: I just rushed out to see - "Passy, Passy, where are you?" And outside it was pitch dark and I put the light on and I thought, "What's happening here, it's just, not me, not her..."

Margaret and Chris searched the streets, ending up on the beach. Passy's formal dress and jewellery were folded neatly on a step. The police searched the coast but no body was found. A neighbour reported that some clothes had gone missing from a clothes line. Margaret believes Passy changed into those clothes before running away from the pressure of Year 12. Chris struggled through Year 12 the year after his sister disappeared. Now he's helping his girlfriend, Aimee, tackle her final year. Aimee is not looking forward to her exams - she says they're not her forte. Yet in NSW, final exams are worth around 50% of students' final mark - just as they are in Victoria, Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory. On top of that pressure, Aimee is also assessed on her school work. Sometimes she studies until 3am if an assignment is due.

REPORTER: what do you find is the hardest thing about doing Year 12?

AIMEE CORNELIUS: The stress levels - it's just up there. And the pressure.

REPORTER: How often is it up there?

AIMEE CORNELIUS: All the time. Like if you miss a day of school because you're sick, there's things that you have to catch up on. You feel that you've fallen behind just from that one day and you've got to try and catch up and learn all the new things.

Aimee wants to go to university, but she isn't sure what she wants to do there. Despite that, she's chosen uni above getting a job, travelling, or enrolling in a different kind of higher education.

AIMEE CORNELIUS: What else can you do besides go to uni? You could go to TAFE courses, apprenticeships, that kind of thing. But the majority of people go to uni and we need to do the work. And what we do now, for us it feels like it will matter because it's going to set us up for what we're going to do.

REPORTER: Where does that pressure come from?

AIMEE CORNELIUS: It comes from different aspects. A lot of it is internal - wanting to do the best you can 'cause you just feel like if you don't do as well as you can, what's going to happen? What are you going to do with your life, if you can't succeed in this?

It's this hype surrounding Year 12 that has contributed to an epidemic of stress amongst Year 12 students. And for some, the so-called 'make or break year' does break them. Passy Reyes disappeared. Others suicide. Between 1996 and 2000, 120 young people suicided in NSW. At least 10 of these deaths were directly related to Year 12 stress.

JUDY CASHMORE, NSW CHILD DEATH REVIEW TEAM: We do need to keep it in perspective. That's 10 over five years, and the number of students who were sitting for the HSC over that period was approximately 60,000 a year. So we're talking about 300,000. But it's still a concern that some students felt that they couldn't overcome the problems or felt too much pressure to deal with. And so obviously there needs to be ways of looking at how to reduce that and help them cope.

The 10 who suicided appeared to be doing well at school, they were high achievers, popular in their year and taking part in extra-curricular activities.

JUDY CASHMORE: Well I think this is where it's really important as far as possible for parents to be aware of the pressure that they might be putting on students. And not tell them that it's a make-or-break year, not tell them that this is their chance to get into uni and do the course they want, or that they're paying a lot of money for their education, and to keep the lines of communication well open.

It's a Sunday and Aimee is taking a break from study, she and Chris have joined 40 Year 12 students at a seminar run by motivational speaker Peter Sheahan. The topic is Year 12 and health.

PETER SHEAHAN: It's your health and the state you're in physically when you approach your exams that's going to determine how well you handle that situation. And that's what today is about. Sure, there's a heap of theory and all that kind of stuff. But at the end of the day, if you don't look after this, it's over, guys - not the HSC - I mean everything could be over.

Peter Sheahan - not long out of school himself - believes the stress of Year 12 can push students to excel. But in his work he also sees the pressure that students - some as young as 13 - are placed under.

PETER SHEAHAN: That's why I have calls probably every third or fourth day from a parent saying they want me to work with and motivate their child. My first question is "How old is the child?" They say, "Year 8, Year 9." No word of a lie. And I say, "Year 8 or Year 9, are you serious?" They say, "Yeah, he just doesn't want to do any work? And I'm like, "I know - that's because he's in Year 8 or Year 9. "Just let him be a boy or just let her go through that teenage stage." This is what we're up against. Who here - hands up and keep them up - has trouble sleeping, especially the night before exams? I want to see your hands.

Greg has come to the seminar to maximise his potential for blitzing Year 12. He's just handed in a major assignment for his software design and development subject.

GREG LOCKWOOD: And I got two hours sleep the day I handed it in, finalising it and trying a last minute cram to get as many marks as possible and the previous weeks, for a couple of weeks, I got about four or five hours sleep, madly trying to do it. I lost contact with friends and all my other subjects I didn't do any work for so I've got a lot of catch-up work that I may not even get around to doing.

Unlike Aimee, Greg knows exactly what course he wants to do at uni next year. It's an IT course and to get in he's going to need a very high final score. He's feeling the pressure to live up to expectations.

GREG LOCKWOOD: Society does place a lot of pressure.

REPORTER: In what way?

GREG LOCKWOOD: They push this as the be all and end all. They say that the HSC is what determines the rest of your life. Even though most people go through career changes and that, if you say you want to be a doctor now to people, they'll hold you to it.

Immediately after the seminar, Greg came here, to a Year 12 study camp, south of Sydney. It's a 5-day camp run by a Christian organisation, Crusaders. Students study for 6 hours a day, 30 hours all up. When Insight caught up with Greg, he was taking a break and trying Pilates as a way of relaxing.

REPORTER: So, Greg, it's day four of the study camp?

GREG LOCKWOOD: It is.

REPORTER: How's it going?

GREG LOCKWOOD: It's going very well. It's certainly been very encouraging to see how productive you can be under these different conditions away from home and away from the distractions and the people and the pressured environment.

STUDENT: I pray that over the next hour and a half you'll help us concentrate on what we're doing. And help us to do effective study, in that we use this study session wisely and remember everything that we learn now. Amen.

(All) Amen.

REPORTER: Someone from the outside might say, "Wow - six hours study a day, during your holidays, that's just too much, that's ridiculous."

GREG LOCKWOOD: In terms of the requirements of the HSC, capitalising on holidays, however painful it may be, is essential, and I guess you can only look forward to the end.

SIMON BREAKSPEAR, CAMP LEADER: We've run a long race this week - it hasn't been a sprint, you couldn't just sprint this one - it's been a long race and it's taken a lot of energy. It's 27 hours down - I bet some of you never thought you could do that.

Simon Breakspear is a trainee teacher and study camp leader. He motivates the students before study sessions and offers one-on-one help.

SIMON BREAKSPEAR: Yeah, I have seen the depression, anxiety and low self-esteem that this constant testing and assessment can bring to people. They keep being brought up sometimes with their own weaknesses and they're competing in things that may not be where their talents lie. And that can be a really tough time for anyone.

DR. MICHAEL CARR-GREGG, PSYCHOLOGIST; It worries me that so many young people put so much store in what essentially is just an examination.

Melbourne psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg specialises in dealing with the damage Year 12 can cause.

DR. MICHAEL CARR-GREGG: They believe genuinely that if they don't get a good mark they will die poor, lonely and broke. Let's turn down the hype about the final years of school. Let's actually make sure young people have a clear understanding that there are many many different ways to get where they need to go.

Day five of study camp is drawing to a close. And in between studying, they've shared their solutions. Like Josh, who's well on the way to getting an apprenticeship next year...

JOSHUA RIVERS: 13 years of school is quite enough for me. I mean as an apprentice I'll be learning, but I think it's learning something I enjoy, something I like.

..or Vasant, who's using the stress to his advantage.

VASANT VENKATRAMANI: Obviously pressure can be a bad thing but it can also be a good thing as it can bring the best out of you, so I think that's what it's done for me.

Back at the seminar, Elissa reveals she conquered her stress by changing schools, to one far less concerned with academic achievement.

ELISSA BOWERY: I'm not saying that an academic school is a bad thing - I think that different schools suit different kinds of people and it's really important that in Year 12 you find the right school for you - so it just helps you so much.

Matthew refuses to get bogged down by the books.

MATTHEW SIELY: You've got to have your balanced lifestyle - you've got to be with your family and you've got to spend time with your friends and exercise. That's the most important thing.

REPORTER: Is that possible?

MATTHEW SIELY: Of course it is, yeah. There are 24 hours in a day. We go to school from 9:00 to 3:30 and we've got a lot of time outside of school.

And Aimee is gaining some perspective.

AIMEE CORNELIUS: Life will turn out how I want it to turn out if I make it turn out that way. It doesn't all rest upon this HSC.

And on Mona Vale Beach, there is still hope that one day, Passy Reyes will come home.

MARGARET REYES: Whenever she's ready, we're quite happy to welcome her home. We love her very much and we miss her a lot but we give her time to get ready and - no pressure.

 

 

AUGUST 2, 2001 : Margaret Reyes mother of missing girl Passy Reyes in Passy's room, 02/08/01 with all her major art works for the 2001 HSC. Passy has been missing since 18/07/01 after leaving family home in Mona Vale in Sydney

**If Passy's family has the originals of these photos please send them to me.

If requested to, I will remove them but they are ONLY here to help in the appeal for Passy's return home.

Sydney Morning Herald 30/07/2001 = Student was tormented by HSC (Sydney Morning Herald)
 

Passy Reyes spent hours in her bedroom painting, inspired by imagery from the country of her birth, Mexico, and Australia, where she was raised. The Pittwater High School student disappeared last week.

Passy was a great swimmer - http://www.avalonbilgolaswimming.asn.au/perpetual_trophies.html